August, 2017 browsing by month


Sunday August 27th. In the Sunday newspaper.

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

By Toby Tate

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Imagine being out to sea alone on a 30-foot boat and waking with a jolt at 4 a.m. when your vessel suddenly runs aground in pitch-black darkness.

That was the scenario experienced by 80-year-old Jacob “Jack” Van Ommen on June 24 as he was leaving Portsmouth, Va., on his way to a boat show at Mystic Seaport, Conn.

“I had cleared the lower Eastern Seaboard peninsula sailing N.E. and felt safe to set the alarm and take a one hour nap,” Van Ommen wrote on his blog.

Van Ommen’s boat was near Mink Island off the Va. coast when he felt the boat jerk him awake. By the time he discovered the problem, it was already too late.

“When I saw the water coming in, at first slowly, but then faster, I figured the boat would be lost,” Van Ommen told The Daily Advance. “And that is when I called the mayday in and set off the alarm on the De Lorme In Reach satellite tracker.”

Already exhausted, Van Ommen managed to drag his life raft from below deck and deploy it as the water reached knee-high level. Twenty minutes later, he heard the rotating blades of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from the U.S. Coast Guard base in Elizabeth City.

The incident happened so quickly, Van Ommen was able to salvage a few things, including the ship’s log—unfortunately, he didn’t have time to find his pants.

“All that I wore was a t-shirt, wool sweater and my under shorts and boat shoes,” he said.

Van Ommen recently had a chance to personally thank the crew of the helicopter at a press conference held by the Coast Guard on Aug. 16 in Portsmouth and attended by several Hampton Roads TV news channels.

Included in that meeting was Petty Officer 2nd Class Brittany Wygand, who received the distress call, and Petty Officer 3rd Class John Fuller, the rescue swimmer who brought Van Ommen in.

“I remember that it was very early in the morning. We got a call saying ‘Mayday’ over the radio,” Wygand told WAVY TV10.

Fuller said he was amazed and inspired to rescue someone as interesting as Van Ommen.

“He’s an 80-year-old man who’s been sailing all over the world these past few years. He’s seen so many things in his life,” Fuller said.

Van Ommen, originally from Holland, has been sailing since he was a teen. He traveled all over Europe until the of age 19, when he moved to the U.S. and was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1961. Although he still travels the world, his homeport is in Gig Harbor, Washington.

But this is not the first time Van Ommen has lost a boat—the first time was on Nov. 16, 2013, during an around-the-world trip which ended on the island of Tago Mago, off the coast of Spain, with his boat smashed and Van Ommen climbing treacherous, slippery rocks to safety. This shipwreck, strangely enough, also happened at 4 a.m.

Not surprisingly, Van Ommen is already rebuilding his boat, The Fleetwood.

“‘Fleetwood’ because I have been in the wood business from age 17,” he said. “Plywood remains my preference, for weight, aesthetics, strength and a lot simpler to repair than fiberglass. Also my first car I owned was a Chevrolet Fleetline.”

Even at 80, and with a compressed spine caused by a nasty fall during a storm, Van Ommen said he has no intention of slowing down.

“I will keep on sailing until I drop,” he said. “It is the least expensive way for me to have a roof over my head and at the same time I can move around and see more beautiful places and meet more interesting people. I do not plan very far ahead.”

He also has some advice for other, younger would-be boaters.

“Curiosity is what drives me, the sailing is fun but it is more important as an inexpensive way to see the world,” he said. “You need to be properly prepared and know something about sailing and navigation and start with a small boat. Keep it simple. The sailors I have seen stuck forever in the same spots are the ones with too big a boat with too many delicate conveniences that keep breaking down and are too difficult to handle when the couples grow older.”

Van Ommen, who has been married once and whose granddaughter recently returned from deployment aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, said that his faith is what keeps him afloat and gives him the strength to go on.

“God seems to take care of me and every apparent setback turns into another positive outcome,” he said. “My faith is the most important assist in my life. The main thing I find in my faith is gratitude for all that the Creator provides for free and the promise of a better life in the resurrection. I therefore also have no fear of death.”

Van Ommen wrote about his amazing life beginning as a child during WWII through his exploits as a boater, in “Soloman,” a memoir available in both English and Dutch from Amazon in eBook and paperback.

His first book, “The Mastmaker’s Daughters,” reveals the life of his mother, gleaned from her own journals. A survivor of the Nazi concentration camps in WWII., she was given over to the Germans by her own cousin, a Nazi sympathizer. ( note by JvO: This is incorrect, the leader of her resistance organization was betrayed by a family member)

Van Ommen’s blog, which features his ongoing adventures, can be found at .

Saturday August 26th. A weekend break in Chesapeake.

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

This week I worked from Wednesday through Friday on the boat repairs in Cape Charles. There are no more back consultations or deployment home comings on the agenda and I expect to stay for a spell at Cape Charles. I am still in the clean up process. In order to get in all the nooks and crannies it requires disassembling all the built ins, the galley, head cabinets, under berth lockers, removing the holding tank and kerosene heater a hundred wires, etc. Some of the brass screws have corroded in the saltwater and are impossible to bring out, involving drilling off the heads. Very time consuming but it will be a good excuse to revarnish the interior, repaint the ceiling and replace the original pink… formica after the structural repairs are done.IMG_20170823_101028










Before and after. The mud has been scraped and vacuumed then in the 2nd picture washed down with the water hose and scrub pads and sponge. I do this in as little clothes as is legal and feels like warm water therapy in a mud pool.Next I hand pump the bilge water overboard.

If I abandon this foolish project and leave unpaid bills behind you can blame my oldest daughter, Lisa. Like many other concerned family members and some friends they wonder and suggest that I could save my self a lot of hard work and money by buying an other boat. On the telephone a couple days ago I argued with her that I don’t want a plastic boat, I want nothing but a Naja and that there are none to be had any longer, I meant North America. After I hang up she sends me a mail with the following ad:  $5,000 wit a little work and an engine replacement, in England. With my second shipwreck I must have stilled the appetite for Apollo Duck to mention that another Naja, the “Fleetwood”, has circumnavigated. I saw this on a couple ads in Europe for used Najas before. 

IMG_20170825_063444This is a photograph of a picture hanging in the harbor master’s office at the Cape Charles Yacht Center. I added the texts. This shows the entire southern tip of the Virginia Eastern Shores. 

I have found a shortcut to walk to breakfast in town, the beach cruiser has a flat front tire, along a railroad track. And I keep discovering new plants I have never seen before. There is so much more variety here in the wild flowers, trees, butter &-dragon flies and song birds, compared to the West Coast. Since I have arrived here on June 2nd there has never been a need for watering the lawns and everything is lush and green. I want to reincarnate a farmer in eastern Virginia, growing lush crops of corn, cotton, peanuts, soy beans, tobacco every conceivable cereal. The accented scents by the warm humid air. I like it here.

note the fruits/seed pods on this vine

note the fruits/seed pods on this vine

note honey bees

note honey bees



Buckeye on the inside of the netting on my tent, next to “Fleetwood”

a water spout off Cape Charles Yacht Center, photographed on 8/25 by Rob Maguire, the Harbor Master

a water spout off Cape Charles Yacht Center, photographed on 8/25 by Rob Maguire, the Harbor Master


Monday August 21. Homecoming of a sailor girl.

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

My granddaughter Gabrielle came home today on the USS George W. Bush aircraft carrier from a seven month deployment. And another 7,999 sailors she shared the voyage with. The parents, my daughter Jeannine and her husband Sean McDonnell joined the crew as part of the 600 relatives/significant others on the “Tiger” cruise from Mayport (near Jacksonville) Florida for the home leg. 

The atmosphere and enthusiastic crowd are best seen on this short video which I put together with the help of Gabrielle’s friend, Elizabeth Seebo: BUSH WELCOME 


Saturday August 19th. Cape Charles Cup regatta

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

The 14th annual Leo Wardrup Memorial Cape Charles Cup participants are coming in to the harbor. Eighty four boats registered for this 20 mile sail from Little Creek on the north shore of Norfolk side of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. This evening they are dining and partying at The Oyster Farm Marina at Kings Creek and racing back the same way tomorrow. The event draws many visitors and a band concert is given in the town’s park this evening. 

The schooner “Virginia” won her class, she always does because she has a class of its own. She takes up 122 feet of the Cape Charles Yacht Center dock.

Virginia state flag on starboard spreader and California on port. Apparently a west coast passenger. But not sure what the (looks like) USA flag is for on the forward mast port spreader.

Virginia state flag on starboard spreader and California on port. Apparently a west coast passenger. But not sure what the (looks like) USA flag is for on the forward mast port spreader.


Wednesday August 16. On the evening news.

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Shortly after the shipwreck I was invited by LTJG Brad Millikken of the Portsmouth Virginia, Hampton Roads sector, US Coast Guard station, to meet the crew who coordinated the rescue with the Helicopter personnel. Today I had the pleasure to thank the men and women. The chopper crew stationed in Elizabeth City N.C. sent the rescue swimmer Sam Fuller out to our meeting. I was very impressed with the command center. It looked like pictures we have seen of the Cape Kennedy Space Center. At least ten men sitting behind their computer screens monitoring the traffic and emergency calls. The three main TV stations were present to cover the encounter.

You can view the streaming of their part of this evening’s news at:

Local Channel 10 WAVY.COM -FOX. This is the most complete coverage.

Local Channel 3  WTKR-CBS This is a shorter version

Local Channel 13 This is an excellent photo gallery 

With Sam Fuller, the rescue swimmer

With Sam Fuller, the rescue swimmer. Photo by Channel 


Wednesday August 16. Enjoying my free gifts.

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

When I am asked: “What is your favorite spot you visited on your travels?” I answer that my very first stop, the Marquesas, tops the list and that Romania is next. The Marquesas steep volocanic formations covered with magnificent lush tropical splendor, in an unspoiled isolation are an obvious contender. But Romania needs an explanation. You need to look up the details and photographs in “SoloMan”.  In a nutshell: I spent parts of all four seasons in Calafat and Zimnicea, about 50 miles apart on the most southern part of Romania on the Danube. It is also an unspoiled isolated part of the world. You will not find it advertised anywhere as a tourist destination. Only a handful of European bicycle tourist pass through here on their way to the Black Sea. It was for me the first opportunity to watch the changing nature, the fall harvesting, winter plowed fields, Gypsy farmers collecting firewood, spring blossoms, summer fruit. Growing up in the city I never experienced this progressive scenario. This long stay on the Danube was caused by the time it took to try and revive my old Renault engine and then to install the replacement.

I am getting another taste of it here in Cape Charles but hope that it will not end up in another of Vivaldi’s Le quattro stagioni. Time stood still in Cape Charles. Until the Chesapeake Bay bridge/tunnel was built it was the rail ferry terminal for the Atlantic sea board. But it has changed since I stopped here on my 2008 Chesapeake Bay cruise. It has a world class golf course, tourism is on the increase, and the Cape Charles Yacht Center has become a popular destination for the sail and power boat cruisers. They recently brought one of the 75 ton super large travel lifts across the continent from the Port of Skagit county, Washington. “Fleetwood” is sitting on a large grass field. I managed to get the port bunk cleaned up enough to sleep on board. It is on a dead end road and the only noises I hear are the crickets and cicadas during the night. Behind a strip of tall Pine trees I hear the braying of a donkey as soon as I stick my head out of the companion way.  You might consider a donkey as an upgrade from your guard dog. My favorite stainless steel folding bike went to the dumpster, this stainless steel does stain. The Marina has a nice beach runner bike for their visitors and I have been able to get around much better than walking across the rail road tracks to town. Yesterday morning, on the road side, I came upon these glorious glorified morning glories and it turns out they are related, Wild Potato Vine. Their roots are very similar to a sweet potato and are edible. For these kind of pictures I wished that I still had my Nikon D50, instead of my cheap smart phone. When there are still savings left after the rebuild I shall look for a replacement.IMG_20170815_074943

There are cotton fields all around the area which are now in bloom, pretty white and red flowers. I have seen cotton fields just before and after harvesting but never green plants with colorful flowers. The other crops here are peanuts, soy beans and potatoes. Lots of Ospreys and I can still fool them with my two finger imitation of their shrill calls. 

I love the Northwest but the southeast has more bird and flower variety. When I was waiting for the insurance decision I’d take my first caffè latte to the porch at my daughter’s house at the crack of dawn, say my prayers and watch the squirrels. The neighbor across the street must have a rabbit lair. IMG_20170808_181851One morning I saw one of this year’s crop stand on his hind legs and rub his front paws just like he saw the squirrels do. One of them made it into our backyard. The mocking birds sing, the incredible bright colored cardinals fly across. One evening at dusk I saw a fire fly, which I have not seen since I was a child. The ground and vegetation smells are much more pronounced than in the lower humidity of the Northwest. 

It seems that the fewer “things” I own, the more I enjoy and appreciate the apparent small free pleasures of God’s creation.

Sunday August 13th Cape Charles today and nine years ago.

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

A friend from St. Therèse parish, Ed, gave me a ride from Chesapeake to Cape Charles last Thursday. I was back at my daughter’s house by 8.30 am that morning from my MRI. The x-ray operator commented that I was the first patient he had ever seen coming in on a bicycle.  The surgeon had requested this because I had not felt any improvement from the back operation when I saw him on July 27th. I have another appointment with him on the 24th. In the meantime I have less discomfort and can walk straighter. Yesterday I worked a little too hard and felt it, today I did not get going till the afternoon, with church and my administration. It rained practically uninterrrupted for most of yesterday. I have plenty of work to do on the inside of the boat. Today, when leaving the church I got wet on the way back. But the rest of the afternoon was sunny and not too hot.

The task I have take on is overwhelming. And I wondered if I made the right decision. Today was a better day than Friday and yesterday and I got more done. I enjoy the work and Cape Charles is a beautiful spot. Looking up the meaning of the mushroom circles that are sprouting up all around the boat, I learned that they are called Fairy Rings and bring good luck. In Holland they are called Heksen Ringen and in Germany Hexen Ringen (Witches Rings) and they bring bad luck.

My French two burner propane stove will need new parts and 12 volt power for the off switch and ignition. So, I have been eating out. Most of the restaurants in town cater to the summer visitors and are pricey. When I had the rental car here, I drove 5 miles to the highway shopping center and bought Chinese take out and for breakfast had my Mac Donald sausage McMuffin. René, at the marina office suggested the pub on the Bay Side golf course. I went there Friday night and  used the beach runner bicycle to get there through a beautiful gated community. The food, location and service was excellent and reasonably priced, too much for me and half of it makes lunch the next day. Today I had breakfast at the Drugstore before 9 o’clock mass at St.Charles.  Rob, the harbormaster, stopped by with a fishsandwich for lunch. It looked like it would be a stunning sunset tonight and  rode the bike to the board walk. I decide to skip dinner and just try the ice cream parlor. There is always a lineup and probably makes more money than any of the towns restarants. So here is the picture of the purple beach runner, me and the blackberry purple icecream. Note that the bike has a white cup that is too shallow for a waterbottle but perfect for the icecream cup. But when I was done shooting the setting sun, I spotted the Mexican food truck. I had been looking for it since I arrived on Thursday. Turns out they only come on Friday and Saturday, but because of the rain they skipped Saturday and came today. I bought a Huaracho with pork and lots of fresh vegetables and avacado. I ate half and the rest is tomorrow’s lunch.

The 2008 picture of the sky after sunset was taken on August 12, 2008. I sailed from Cape Charles, via Winter Harbor to Deltaville and arrived on the 14th in Urbanna on the Rappahannock River. I met Lynne the next day at the marina. We became friends and thought that my solo sailing days were over.  Nine years ago, it seems like yesterday, I hold on to the good memories.

IMG_20170813_133330 IMG_20170813_194515 IMG_20170813_195306DSC_0003-1 (2)

This Wednesday I have been invited at the Portsmouth US Coast Guard station to meet the men who rescued me by helicopter on June 23. Rob McGuire, the harbormaster here, will give me a ride back to Chesapeake. On the 21st my granddaughter Gabrielle returns on the nuclear carrier “President Ford” from a six month deployment in the Med and Persian Gulf. I shall attend her homecoming in Norfolk. On the 24th I have the follow up back surgeon meeting. On the 26th there will be a funeral service at St. Thérèse for Mary Dion, a friend, who passed away on her 93rd birthday. I hope to be able to get a few days boatwork in between these dates. Before I know it fall be here and winter soon behind it. Say a prayer that I will not let “Fleetwood” down.

I am having an issue in Word Press that all of a sudden you are unable to enlarge my pictures. Another problem to solve that takes my preciuous time away. I’ll work on it.

Wednesday, August 2nd. “Fleetwood” will rise again. _/) _/)

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

A week ago, after a week of cleaning up, removing the remaining sea water and thick mud from the bilge, I discovered additional dammage besides the split along the lower port chine and the damage of the rudder post and “sugar scoop”. The lower chine on the starboard side is also split and the stringers broken at the masthead bulkhead and the floor timber at the masthead bulkhead.

I was ready to throw in the towel after all the nasty cleaning and the discomfort of the back ache. But after consultation with Todd, the builder of this particular NAJA kit, I decided to go for it anyway. Monday I got the confirmation that the insurance will cover the $19,000 wreck removal bill. Now I can draw my plans. It will take a number of months. Chisseling out the damaged stringers and parts of the chines and floors, cleaning out the breaks, scarfing in replacements. Reinforcing the weak areas with carbon fiber, etc. After I have repaired and repainted the underwater parts of the hull and installed the engine replacement and the solar panel, I plan to move the boat back to the Nautical Boats Marina in Portsmouth to finish the interior and above the water exterior, wiring, electronics, etc. Make up new floor boards, cock pit grills and the one lost hatch, companion way entry, etc.

In case any of you have suggestions, I am looking to replace the one cylinder 10 1/2 HP engine with a two cylinder 12 to 18 hp, Kubota Nani N-14) or Mitsubishi (Sole Mini 17) block, Westerbeke 12-D or a Yanmar YM2GM or similar in a good used or rebuilt engine. Preferably near the Chesapeake Bay.

Once I get the damage where the weather does not affect it any longer, I plan make the postponed trip to Quebec to meet up with Roger Simard of the 1980 Naja “Bonita”. On this road trip I might be able to stow an engine in the trunk and plan scrounge the  New England consignment/salvage yards for the many items I have lost. Fisheries Supplies will be getting a long shopping list I am working on. Fortunately I still have a decent discount set up from the days that I was selling and assembling the NAJA kits under my company A&T Marine Services. I have not been in Cape Charles since last Wednesday evening. On Thursday I had an appointment with the back surgeon. Since I had not experienced any relief from the surgery, he ordered another MRI and X-Ray, which is scheduled for the 10th. My occupation with the boat did not help in the recovery. In the meantime I am house and cat sitting for my daughter and son in law on their 9 day vacation. I may end up as cat food unless I hear from them soon as where her dry food is hidden. They took the bicycle I was using with them and walking the three miles to the nearest market is not agreeing with my back.

Here are a couple of pictures of the additional dammage I discovered:





broken bulkhead and 4 mm gap from keelson

broken bulkhead and 4 mm gap from keelson







Just the replacements of the lost/ruined items is over $ 10,000 and that is a little more than my current savings. This does not include the repair materials. The alternative would be to walk away from the project, hope that enough salvage items like winches, deck hardware, rigging, etc would cover the cost of what is left to go into the dumpster.  Then I might find a fiberglass substitute for say $ 10,000 that would take another $5,000 plus to outfit. But it will never be the sailboat that “Fleetwood” has been and potentially will be again. I realize that my age is slowing me down but I am looking forward to the challenge and progress and to be reunited with my faithful friend with the hand on her tiller a bone in her teeth and a smile on my face.

Every last week of the month there is a nearly $2,000 Social Security deposit on my account. My books royalties are slowly growing. One of the regular readers of this blog has already stepped up with a very generous offer towards the “resurrection” with a $1,000 offer. My twin brother, Jan, has already deposisted a similar sum on my Euro account in The Netherlands. In 2010 I had to replace the old Renault engine in Romania on the Danube, far from any marine cacilities and that added to the expense of about $8,000. It cleaned my savings, but I managed to restock and when I lost the original “Fleetwood” in 2013 in the Mediterranean I managed to purchase the current boat for $7,000 and again built my savings back up. So, I am expecting that the Lord will again take care of it.  But if I get in a bind, I will avail myself of your aid.

You can do me a great financial favor and your self the pleasure or as a gift to your friends to purchase “SoloMan” and/or “The Mastmakers’ Daughters”. In particular if you buy the printed version from instead of Amazon. I am also keen on giving a presentation to a crowd of potential readers in the Northwest in November/December or here on the Atlantic Coast.

I insert part of my spreadsheet of the insurance estimate with the items that need replacement. Just in case you might have it in your garage or know of a good source.

Repair Estimate sailboat “Fleetwood”

Replacements: Costs

Solar Panel Kyocera and controller $350.00
Inflatable Dinghy $750.00
Engine, installations rebuild mounts $7,000.00
Engine upgrade from one to two cylinder -$2,000.00
Engine hatch material, lost $50.00
Life Raft $2,100.00
Boat tools $1,000.00
Two batteries $700.00
All wiring including mast $375.00
Horse shoe life ring $50.00
Windvane vane $60.00
VHF radio $400.00
AM-FM radio $150.00
Handheld GPS $150.00
Galley two burner propane stove $350.00
AIS-GPS transponder Vesper Marine $940.50 (This might still be resurrected)
Cockpit floor grates, teak $150.00
Cabin floors, oak strip $200.00
Hardware boat spares $350.00
Broken lines & halyards $50.00